"Oh." I get quiet as I look out at the scenic drive we’re cruising down, remembering the phone call with my mom.

"Listen, Sophie, I know it’s not my place to pry, but if you’re in some kind of trouble, if you need anything…even a friend to listen…I’m happy to help."

I suppose it did sound suspicious. I’d showed up out of the blue without a stitch of clothing to spare. "No, it’s nothing like that. Just a fresh start." I smile, trying to lighten the mood.

"Well, the offer stands. And I know Colton better than anyone. It’s not like him to just move a woman in."

I swallow and wonder what she means. I realize Marta could give me information about him, probably more than anyone else. "How long have you worked for him?" I want to inquire about exactly what her role is, but I’m not sure if there’s a polite way to word it.

"Oh gosh, Colton and I have quite the history. Where do I start?" She laughs and I glance over at her. Her smile is gorgeous, and her loose blonde waves drift around her face in the subtle breeze, but all I’m able to concentrate on is her implied familiarity with my new owner.

Have they slept together? Are they currently sleeping together? I don’t know why it hasn’t occurred to me before, but Colton has no obligation to be faithful to me. A thought that makes my stomach cramp. While I’m blowing him in private and giving him the most precious part of me, he could be off wining and dining other women. Beautiful, confident women like Marta. I knew this situation wasn’t going to be ideal, but I also never imagined I’d be living with such an eligible young bachelor like Colton Drake. Already he’s affecting me in ways I didn’t anticipate.

"Mm, let’s see. I’ve been his personal assistant for…" She purses her lips. "Six years now. I began at his office as a receptionist, but our personalities just clicked and I started working for him personally a short time after that. Having someone he can trust in his home and private life is important to him."

I nod, but the truth is, I don’t know him at all. It’s weird to think that I know what he looks like naked, but I don’t actually know him know him. And I want to. Why is he so successful at such a young age and why in the world did he go to that auction in the first place? Questions burn through my mind like a raging inferno.

We spend the afternoon in various boutique shops, where I try on and purchase jeans, shorts, sundresses and tops, all on Colton Drake’s gold card that Marta whips out at every transaction. For once I actually have money, but after Marta reprimanded me for trying to pay and said that Colton had instructed her everything was to go on his card, I stopped fighting it.

We already have several full shopping bags of clothes and are at our last stop of the day – a lingerie boutique for some much needed bras and panties.

I’m digging through a bin of simple cotton panties, the kind that fill my drawers back home when I sense Marta’s presence beside me. She eyes the pretty pair of pale yellow boy shorts trimmed in lace and purses her lips. "Colton favors dark colors," she says.

My stomach twists again at her implied familiarity with the man I’m currently sharing a bed with. I want to argue, to tell her it’s not like that between me and him, but instead, I drop the forgotten undergarment into the bin and continue looking. From the corner of my eye, I can see her eyeing me suspiciously. Maybe that was a test, and I’ve just answered her question about my relationship with him without saying a single word. Oh well. I do have a sexual relationship with him – or at least I am going to soon – and there’ll be no sense hiding it.

Stocking up on basic black and navy bikinis and matching bras, I find Marta browsing in the clearance area of the store. She doesn’t seem the type to need to shop in the discount section, but I secretly like that she’s thrifty. I am too.

It’s not lost on me that she’s likely my best source of information on Colton. I mean, geez, I didn’t even know his first name before she’d told me. I wondered what else I could get her to let slip.

When she sees me approach, she smiles at me again. "Ready?"

"I think so." I hold up an armful of undergarments. "But take your time." Today’s been all about me so far – something I’m not used to. She can browse if she wants. "That’s cute." I nod to the red demi bra she’s holding.

"They don’t have my size." She shoves it back onto the rack and keeps looking.

I gather my courage. "Marta?"

"Hm?" she says, holding up a sequined tank top.

"Who’s Stella?"

Her eyes zip over to mine. "He told you about Stella?"

Shit. Her accusatory tone and icy stare are too much, that, or my conscious is too big. My gaze drops down to the floor. "Not exactly. His brothers stopped by this morning, and her name might have come up." And his bedroom smells like stale perfume and one half of his closet seems like it’s been hastily emptied out, I mentally add.

Marta continues perusing the rack of discounted bras, her brows pinched together like she’s recalling a bad memory. "He’s not been himself since Stella. She did a fucking number on him," she mutters under her breath.

I can’t really imagine someone hurting the ever in control Colton Drake, but then again, I have no idea of his past, just like he has no idea of mine. But I intend to find out.

Several hours later, Marta drops me off at Colton’s place. We bought so much, all of my shopping bags barely fit in her tiny backseat and trunk. Marta helps me carry them inside and up the stairs. She marches with purpose toward Colton’s bedroom, like it’s a familiar route. The little sting of curiosity is back. I also note that there’s no question about where I’m staying – she didn’t even pretend to assume it was in one of the guest rooms.



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